When our Netherlands getaway became a BeNeLux trip, our itinerary went from sane to harebrained. Doc Sci and I decided to just roll with the punches and make this a bucket-list trip.
Ever since I heard that the Grote Markt in Brussels is the most beautiful town square in all of Europe, I decided I had to see it with my own eyes. I made Brussels our morning stop on the way from Nijmegen in the Netherlands to Brugge on the west side of Belgium.
That’s the nice thing about being the master of your own itinerary and driving instead of flying or taking the train. Do what you want, when you want.
But, because we were driving, I worried about navigating Brussels traffic. (Turns out, the really heavy flow was near Antwerpen – beware!) Finding and paying for parking was also a concern. I wanted an interesting place outside of the city center to explore that just happened to be close enough to public transportation so we could have a little jaunt in the beautiful. A tall order? Maybe, but as it turns out, the Atomium fit my criteria perfectly.
I don’t have much to say regarding the Atomium at this time because I’m totally stoked to announce that Doc Sci has decided to start his own line of posts here on Thrifty Travel Mama called Nerdy Travel Dad! Just by looking at the thing, I’m sure you can tell that The Atomium definitely falls into this category. Update: you can read Doc Sci’s Nerdy Travel Dad review of the Atomium here.
After packing Big Foot into the backpack carrier, and stuffing some sandwiches in my pack, we headed for the subway. In fifteen minutes, we were making our way through downtown Brussels.
First stop? The BEST fries in all of Belgium. Yep, I’m makin’ a claim and stickin’ to it. Though others seem to think that Frikot Max in Antwerpen is the best, I’ll personally tell you that Fritland wins hands down. Try the Mitraillette which looks like a huge fry sandwich.
While sitting at a table in the sunshine at Fritland, give the Saint Nicholas Church (across the street) a gander. For some reason, T-Rex wanted to go in every church we stumbled upon. After a quick visit and a few photos, we made our way toward the Grote Place.
Only a few steps later, we were sidetracked by a small sign showing the way to the other famous Brussels landmark, the Mannekin Pis. I wasn’t planning on taking T-Rex and Screech to see a bronze boy peeing, but what the heck. Live it up. Walk the few blocks over, and get that cheesy tourist picture. You’ll only be in Brussels once, right? Right.
And, while you’re at it, order a big fat Belgian waffle smothered in specaloos. If you don’t know specaloos, not to worry. Read more about this cookie spread and where to buy it here. Or, if you just want the cookie, taste test anything with the word spekulaas in it.
After the obligatory peeing statue giggles, we finally (FINALLY!) found ourselves in what surely must be the most lovely square in Europe, the Grote Place. Other cities have more beauty scattered, but Brussels has it all in one neat, uh, rectangle. The gold on the buildings and the ornamental architectural styles are a feast for the eyes. Amazing.
My snapshot of Brussels: big city feel, small town taste, elegant architecture, and an excellent introduction to Belgium.